At Film School Rejects, we like to have the final word, even when we’re arguing with ourselves. Although mostly, we just like to yell the loudest. We figured we should channel that energy into a new feature we like to call “Shouting Match.” This week’s contenders? Jorge Sosa and Josh Radde. This week’s point of contention: The Best James Bond.
JORGE: I will shout ’til I’m blue in the face that George Lazenby was the consummate Bond.
Do the math. Each Bond has had his share of good movies and bad movies. 60% of Connery’s ouevre was good, 100% of Lazenby’s were good, 30% of Moore’s films were good, 50% of Dalton’s movies were good, and 20% of Brosnan’s output was good. It’s too early to judge Craig by this measure. QoS could suck ass, which would really hurt his batting average.
So, by that measure, here’s my personal Bond ranking:
Sheer numbers don’t lie, but Lazenby is also the manliest Bond. Granted, he dresses like an idiot. But, in one movie, he shags Diana Rigg at least twice (a third shagging is probably implied during the Louis Armstrong love-theme montage) plus he bones two other babes in Blofeld’s lair. During his downtime, he reads Playboy. Furthermore, unlike Moore, Lazenby did all his own fights. Unlike Connery or Dalton, he has a decent head of hair. Plus he rocks that amazing chin cleft.
JOSH: Just because a pinch-hitter goes 1-for-1 in a baseball game doesn’t automatically mean he’s in the starting lineup the next day. Yes, Lazenby’s film was good largely because it showed a darker version of Bond, one similar to the novels of Ian Fleming, and more in tune to what Daniel Craig would eventually do with the character. Also, OHMSS ends with a married Bond holding his lifeless wife, so I give the producers and director (Peter R. Hunt) credit for going with the dark ending.
That being said, we’re talking about the best BOND. Any guy that was replaced because the fans hated him could not be considered the best James Bond. He just can’t be. After one film, the studio deemed it necessary to replace Lamenby with the established Connery in Diamonds Are Forever.
Also, I don’t think it’s too early to judge Craig. Casino Royale is the most exciting Bond film ever made and it’s largely thanks to Craig’s dynamic and risk-taking performance. He’s intense, calculated, vulnerable, and a man dead-set on his mission, not some dude wearing frilly shirts and taking ample screen time to shag the Dame from “The Avengers”. What Lazenby has in hair, Craig has in eyes. Craig is a physical powerhouse who also does as many fights and stunts as he can. When it’s all said and done, Craig will be the best Bond on film.
However, I’m going to go with Connery. The man IS James Bond. They even used his likeness in a video game for From Russia with Love 40 years after the film came out. His Bond films, FRwL, Goldfinger, Thunderball, and the first screen incarnation, Dr. No, are all certified classics. So even if Craig or Lazenby, or even Brosnan for that matter, gave better PERFORMANCES, no one is as quintessentially Bond as Connery.
Your move, sir.
JORGE: I find two major flaws with your argument.
1. Lazenby wasn’t shit-canned because the fans didn’t like him. Lazenby turned down a contract for a seven-picture deal because he thought Bond would be out of fashion in the ’70s. Oops. Hey, we’re not debating which Bond actor had the best business sense.
2. Connery might have defined the role of Bond in many people’s minds, but only because he had the good fortune of being cast in the part first. To argue that he was the best Bond is akin to arguing that William Shatner was the best captain of the Enterprise. We all know that’s bullshit — the best Enterprise captain was a certain bald Brit.
I don’t mean to equate Connery’s acting ability with Shatner’s. Christ, no. Connery is undoubtedly one of the most talented film stars of the 20th century. But his track record as Bond is pretty damned spotty. After a strong start, it didn’t take long for his enthusiasm to flag. I would argue that by Thunderball, and definitely by You Only Live Twice, he was phoning it in. Diamonds Are Forever? Fugeddaboutit. That cinematic shit-sack is awful, and only useful as a reminder of how far Connery had sunk.
However, I will concede that Craig might someday turn out to be the best Bond ever. I also concede that you’re a pestilent canker and the son of a thousand fathers. Nothing personal, but this is a fuckin’ Shouting Match, not a tea party.
JOSH: Ok, Sally.
Don’t use the “being first” argument for Connery. No one gives Brian Cox credit for being the first Hannibal Lecter. People USED to think that Michael Keaton was the best Batman. If Roger Moore were the first James Bond, would we even really care about the character today? Honestly, I doubt it. This distinction comes from the quality of work, not the chronology of a character. Goldfinger is Bond at his absolute best, and Connery gives the role everything someone not familiar with the character would need to see to get a good idea of what he’s about. The revenge aspect, the womanizing, the cheesy line delivery, the awkward karate chop, the fear of having a laser blast your nuts off. It’s all there. I would say that Connery lost interest by Diamonds Are Forever (notably because he looked significantly fatter than You Only Live Twice) and tarnished his reputation further when he made Never Say Never Again using his power to get a non-MGM licensed James Bond film made.
Your conclusion that Lazenby is the best Bond confirms something that FSR readers and myself have considered true for a long time: You have a tiny member. Yes, I went there.
JORGE: You brought this upon yourself. I’m hauling out the big guns (and, no, I’m not referring to my legendary wang). The easiest way to settle the Lazenby vs. Connery dispute is to ask: Which Bond could kick the other’s ass?
Lazenby could easily cripple Connery for several reasons. First, Connery would be encumbered by your clinging to him, vigorously suckling on his teat. Laying the Radde-factor aside, Lazenby was a sergeant in the Australian Army Special Forces and an unarmed combat instructor. Unlike Connery, he shot his own fight scenes. You can tell the difference by comparing the fights in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service with any of Connery’s on-screen catfights. The fights in OHMSS are raw-knuckled, frantic and visceral. Lazenby is a fucking monster, and, in fact, my friend, he broke a stuntman’s nose during a screen test. Somebody forgot to tell my man he had to contain his macho fury. The exact opposite is the case with Connery’s on-screen pansy-fests. It’s obvious that once the action escalated beyond bitch slaps, they needed to cut away and have a stunt double do the real heavy lifting.
Incidentally, Connery also served in the military, namely the British Royal Navy. He was discharged due to medical problems — a duodenal ulcer. That’s right: Connery was soft in the belly.
Lazenby probably gets some flak for only appearing as Bond once. Well, once was enough to prove himself the kick-assingest Bond of all time.
JOSH: At least Connery got to use his own voice in the film. Lazerbeam Taintsweat was dubbed at times. Dude got Jazz Singer-ed in an English speaking movie! I won’t claim that Connery is a physical beast, but that somewhat defeats the purpose of the early generation Bond. He was a man who used his intellect and quick-thinking over his brute strength. Even Craig, whose pretty much a physical force to be reckoned with, is usually outmatched in a fight.
I dunno, maybe you have a point in here somewhere. Even though I still think Connery is “the man, dawg,” Lazenby did do the French softcore erotica series, “Emmanuelle.” Though, sadly, he was not featured in “Emmanuelle in Space,” the only thing Cinemax cares about.
Update: I just saw Quantum of Solace and Craig is the best Bond ever. Previous conversation: moot.
We’ve kicked and screamed and clawed at each other with our fingernails, and, as in true stubborn FSR fashion, neither of us will back down. So, we’re leaving the final verdict up to you: Who’s the best Bond of all time? Lazenby? Connery? Someone we didn’t even care to mention? Don’t say Dalton because we all know that’s absurd.